Interns arrive just in time for free compost workshop

This year’s Dawn Garden interns prepare a large pile of compost to use during the June 15 compost workshop. The free workshop will be held at 218 Indian Falls Road in
 Crescent Mills, starting at 10 a.m. From left: Blaze Elation, Silas Kachman and Dwight Hobbs. Photo by Samantha P. Hawthorne
Samantha P. Hawthorne

  As a way of educating the local community about sustainable agricultural methods, the Dawn Gardens Institute is hosting its annual compost workshop June 15.

  This free workshop, which begins at 10 a.m., is designed to help aspiring gardeners start or improve upon their composting systems. The methods described in this workshop are depended upon by Dawn Gardens to maintain and improve the soil fertility of its small-scale organic farm.

  The farm’s manager, Manuel Boehmer, and his teaching partner Bob Boschee will present the workshop. Since the garden opened in 1990, Boehmer has been successfully training gardeners of all experience levels in effective composting and garden fertility techniques.

  In addition to working alongside Boehmer in teaching composting methods, Boschee will be demonstrating how to start and maintain a vermiculture program. This technique of using worms to decompose organic waste is simple to set up and requires minimal maintenance.

Dawn interns

  Every year, Dawn Gardens offers an internship program for people interested in learning about all aspects of sustainable and organic farming.

  After sorting through 50 applications for this year’s internships, Boehmer chose the top three candidates for the positions. On May 1, the three “farmers in training” settled into their temporary homes near the garden and set right to work.

  The interns have committed to working regular 40-hour weeks in the garden until Oct. 31. During their stay, they will be instructed in sustainable farming techniques through both hands-on and written coursework.

  Each intern brings a different level of skill sets to the garden, and each one has his or her own aspirations.

  University of California, Berkeley graduate Blaze Elation earned her degree in natural resource management and is interested in running a small-scale “truck farm.” She is 21 years old and “vacationing” here from Big Sur.

  She grew up on a small farm, so the physical labor involved is nothing new to her. She said working on a farm takes creativity. “It’s not so cut and dry that you can learn everything from a book.” She decided to complete her internship with the Dawn so she can get hands-on experience, and learn “a little about everything.”

  Dwight Hobbs is a 24-year-old Bay Area resident who recently graduated from Occidental College. His area of study focused on international diplomacy, with an interest in food justice issues.

  Before interning with the Dawn, his only hands-on experience was working in the college garden. Hobbs said, “I wanted to come here to see if, on a day-to-day level, I could stay passionate about farming, and to see if I was any good at it. So far it has exceeded all of my expectations.”

  Silas Kachman, the youngest intern at only 20 years old, has come to the farm with a two-year general degree from West Michigan University. He decided to take a break from school for a year to pursue his options — one of them being sustainable agriculture.

  He said that before interning with Boehmer, he had “no idea how much craftsmanship, intelligence and organization went into growing produce. I am only a month into the program but so far I am really enjoying it. Especially working outside and coming home with dirt on my hands and face; it feels really good.”

  The three interns will also have the chance to assist with the compost workshop while learning more about the techniques themselves.

About the garden

  According to its mission statement, the Dawn Gardens Institute is a nonprofit organization that is “committed to promoting sustainable management of natural resources.”

  They work to provide “diverse educational opportunities in sustainable agriculture and land stewardship for the health and benefit of our local community.”

  Although the small-scale farm is only 2 acres, it is highly productive and serves as a model for the community in sustainable growing techniques.

  In addition to the internship program and free compost workshop, Boehmer offers educational tours beginning every year in mid-July.

  The program is supported through the local sale of produce from the garden. According to Boehmer, before reaching the consumer, produce travels an average distance of 1,200 miles. This not only degrades the nutrient value of the produce, but also degrades the taste.

  By purchasing locally, consumers get “fresher, tastier and more nutritious produce than when shipped. At Dawn Gardens, out produce is always fresh, and retains its superior nutritional value until it reaches your table,” said Boehmer.

  For more information on how you can support Dawn Gardens, or to ask questions about the compost workshop, call 284-6036 or visit

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